Social Justice Teaching Through the Sympathetic Touch of Caring and High Expectations for Students of Color

Leticia Rojas, Daniel Liou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Scopus citations


This 1-year qualitative study examined the ways in which nine social justice–oriented teachers in racially segregated schools defined and fostered sympathy with low-income students of color. These teachers reportedly defined sympathy on the basis of caring and high expectations, which challenged traditional notions of sympathy as a teacher cue for low ability and lowered expectations for learning. Building upon W. E. B. Du Bois’s concept of sympathetic touch, the findings of this study revealed that the teachers fostered sympathy through perceptions of fairness in educational opportunities, education as a method to challenge class oppression, the use of curriculum to communicate caring, and high expectations to promote students’ histories, self-respect, and preparation for a more just future. The results of these findings have implications for how society currently views teacher effectiveness, and future discussions regarding teacher education, school accountability, and teacher evaluation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-40
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Teacher Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017



  • class
  • critical pedagogy
  • equity
  • gender
  • instructional practices
  • race
  • school/teacher effectiveness
  • social justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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